Pricing your Ebook

Figuring out how to price your ebook can be a quite emotional process, and of course it's directly related to how much money you make. So it's important to take this project seriously.

The first thing to accept is that this IS emotional, and that there's no way to separate that out from other aspects of your decision. Numerous psychological studies show that the brain cannot "turn off" its emotional circuits. Even decisions that a person thinks are completely logical have some emotional foundation. That is OK. We are human beings, and that is how our brains work.

So it's good to look at and accept the reasons that this process can be emotional. That way we have them as conscious aspects and not hidden subconscious ones.

I Invested Years
Many writers I know invest five or more years in creating the ultimate masterpiece of a book. They traveled to research locations. They paid for expensive writing seminars. They paid for talented coaches to help them hone their words. They feel like they now want to "recoup" all of that investment they made.

Awful Writers Charge Lots
Many writers take a look at certain books that become best-sellers and feel they are extremely poorly written. They feel, if book X is selling for $29.99 that their book absolutely should sell for the same if not more, since their content is higher quality.

Family / Friends are Watching
Many writers have had to deal with grief from family and friends for years. They have had to justify their writing activities. This is finally their chance to prove to the others that what they have been doing is worth it.

If you have a powerful emotional trigger that's not here, please let me know so I can add it in. That way this page helps as many people as possible.

So, with that being said, you need to take a deep breath and put ALL of that behind you. Why? Because the buyers on Amazon and other sales sites won't care one whit. They will be judging your book solely on what it presents, and solely against the competition they see. They don't know or care about anything else. Your window of opportunity is very narrow, and you have to focus on the precise task of getting them to move the book from Amazon (or Apple or wherever) onto their e-reader. So you have to make the lure of your book and its content more weighty - in a scale sense - than their resistance to paying the price you set.

Pricing your Ebook

This does't happen in a vacuum. Thousands of other ebooks are just one click away from their little fingers. So this balancing act is going on while other opportunities are sitting right there calling to them.

So you have to put all the emotional stuff to the side. You have to focus with laser-like precision on how your book appears to a target end user in an online system. You need to factor in these things.

Does the User Really Need It?
Yes, you love your book. But think like the end user. Is it a must-have in their life, or just a nice-to-have? A user who is dealing with a tantrum-throwing child might be quite willing to pay good money to get practical, immediately useful tips on bringing the trauma to an end. A parakeet owner with an injured parakeet might love the ability to dash online, download the book in minutes, and get a solution. Price has less impact there.

However, let's say your book is less urgent. Let's say the book is on generic stress relief tips. I happen to LOVE stress relief tips, so there's a reason I use this example :) But as much as I adore them, it's not that I run to my computer and urgently need to get a book on them. If I happen to see a book while walking in a bookstore I might pick it up. But most purchases online don't happen like that. Most purchases happen because a person goes out deliberately looking for a solution and then finds your book. Similarly, I write medieval romance novels. I love them! But the average reader isn't going to run to their computer saying "I absolutely have to have a medieval romance novel right now". So the weight on the "must buy" side is fairly low.

That then also says the price has to be lower, because they have to think, "heck it's only 99 cents. I'll grab it".

What is the Competition?
By competition I mean what the USER thinks they could get instead. It doesn't matter if I write the most gorgeous eval romance novel ever created and think it holds its own against the $29.99 top seller currently racing up the charts. The user isn't making those kinds of mental comparisons. The reader isn't considering my ego or my years of effort or my in depth research on how sheep were sheared in the medieval days. What they care about is looking at their computer screen and seeing, right next to my book, that there are ten other medieval novels that are all 99 cents. Sure, mine might be better, but is it really THAT much better? And - and this can hurt to think about, but it's important - does the user CARE if it's that much better? If the other book is "nearly as good" and they save money, they'll save the money. They don't need perfection. They just need to fix the issue.

It's worth pointing out here that the reader has probably been burned a few times in the past. They've bought books that have been worthless. So it's likely they're a bit cynical about content. They expect it to be mediocre quality and hopefully they'll be pleasantly surprised.

Now, it's also worth mentioning that if you're writing a 200 pages tutorial on how to code in ASP and every single other book out there is going for $99.99 - and you price yours for 99 cents - that people might ignore you because they think you're a scam. So in those specific cases, be aware of the market prices. But in the ebook world that's a fairly rare thing to happen. Usually the price pressure is in the other direction.

Prices are Not Permanent
It's important to keep in mind that ebook prices change all the time. Let's say you start your ebook out at $3.99 because it is optimal for sales. Over time you build up a library of positive reviews and get a lot of sales. Now you can more easily start to crank your price up because now the "must have" power of your content is increasing. You have a proven product. Real life people adore it. The visitors can see clearly with their eyes that actual humans have posted ratings and think this is valuable material. Again, they are cynical about anything you say. They're also cynical about the flurry of initial reviews that accompany a book launch, figuring those are often friends and family. They wait to see how it does over time. If it builds up that natural groundswell of appreciation, they'll want to join in on the experience. That is when you can start trading on that reputation of the book.

Remember, it isn't necessarily your name or your reputation or anything else you've done in the past. There are many well known authors who have put out books that people deluged with 1-star reviews. So it all comes down to this one book and how it's received.

My Experience
When I first started publishing my romance novels, I had the expectation that I'd sell them for $5.99 each - and have a special promotion period for $3.99 to get them started. However, as I launched them and researched how they showed up in Amazon I saw that they were being listed right up against all the 99 cent books and free books. Few people would click on a $5.99 book and think it was a good buy. The scale was tipped too far towards the "price too high" side of the equation. So I dropped the price to 99 cents - and now I sell hundreds of them a month. They have good reviews, they have interesting content, they appear to be professional and solidly written, and to the user my books are now "top of the list" compared with their other options. Could I increase the price to $1.99 or $2.99? Yes, but then the users would have to think my book was "twice as good as that other one" or even "three times as good as that other one" - which makes the choice harder. I want them to instantly click and buy. The more people I can get to instantly click, the more overall sales I get, and the more money I make. Billions of quick-clicking fingers is much better than a few slower-clicking, pondering fingers.

This is an issue that many people have many wildly varying opinions on. Some authors feel strongly that "I invested a real day-job effort so I deserve a real day-job salary." I can only say that the end user does not care at all how the book was made. They are making their own emotional choice when they think about buying. And, in that moment, their decision process is the only thing that matters, to close the sale.

I would love to hear your feedback on this topic!

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